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Programming Education Games

Video Games: Gateway To a Programming Career? 170

Nerval's Lobster writes: Want more people to program? Encourage them to play more video games, at least according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In an online Q&A, Zuckerberg suggested that a lifetime spent playing video games could prep kids and young adults for careers as programmers. "I actually think giving people the opportunity to play around with different stuff is one of the best things you can do," he told the audience. "I definitely would not have gotten into programming if I hadn't played games as a kid." A handful of games, most notably Minecraft, already have a reputation for encouraging kids to not only think analytically, but also modify the gaming environment — the first steps toward actually wrestling with code. Those of you who have done programming work in your career: did video games influence your path?
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Video Games: Gateway To a Programming Career?

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  • Absolutely (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Not only did I learn to read because I wanted to play the Adventures of Spiderman Text-heavy adventure game, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do for a career from a very young age due to computer gaming exposure

    • Re:Absolutely (Score:5, Interesting)

      by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:22PM (#49753691)

      Not to be a downer, but when I was a Teaching Assistant for a Computer Science class, the students that told me they wanted to do computer science because they loved computers games were usually the first ones to drop out.

      Not that Computer Science equals programming. It certainly does not. Computer Science is generally more focused on the science part anyway, not on the programming itself. So I'm not saying that people who love computer games don't become great game programmers themselves. I'm just saying that based on my own biased and subjective experience, I've come to find that gamers didn't make great Computer Science students at all.

      • I'm just saying that based on my own biased and subjective experience, I've come to find that gamers didn't make great Computer Science students at all.

        I found that gamers didn't make great Computer Programming students either. OTOH, many computer programmers love games.

        • I was a huge gamer as a kid (still do, when I have time) but the best programming I ever got into was scripting.

          Though I think gaming did get me into my current career. Basically I used to spend a lot of time on IRC for the express purpose of pirating games when I was about 15, and basically learned about the innards of TCP/IP after learning about the back and forth hacking attacks different groups would use to take over each other's IRC channels. There was that, and trying to troubleshoot network issues fo

      • Re:Absolutely (Score:4, Interesting)

        by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:50PM (#49753957)
        As a lead video game tester for three years, I had to teach the next generation of video game testers fresh out of high school. They like the idea of being paid to play video games, and then they learn that testing video games is not the same as playing games. Writing bug reports, going to meetings, and testing the same broken piece of shee-it game for weeks at a time is just the beginning. Most don't survive the mind-numbing crunch times of working 80 hours a week for months.
        • Most don't survive the mind-numbing crunch times of working 80 hours a week for months.

          Many game companies don't treat their workers very well, but your company sounds even worse than usual.

          It sounds like the newcomers are the frogs that leapt out, however misguided and ignorant they were, and you're the frog that stayed in to slowly being cooked alive.

          I would venture to guess that the new workers who left got other gaming testing jobs at other game companies, or got other software testings jobs, and are now healthier and happier for having left your company when they did.

          • Re:Absolutely (Score:4, Interesting)

            by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:56PM (#49754469)
            Most people leave the video game industry for good after they realize that they want a personal life that includes a significant other and having a family. Very few testers work their way up to become producers or programmers. I went into help desk support for ten years and I'm now doing computer security, making twice as much money for half the hours that I did as a video game tester.
      • I wouldn't say that video gaming influenced me much, of course in my day (I'm an old fart) video games were arcade games. But no, not much influence. I write mostly business logic anyway, graphics are not really what I do. As for Mark Zonkerboyd, he can eat my hat. I don't care much for the boy and he can get stuffed.
  • Not likely. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @01:52PM (#49753409)

    When I started with computers, I had to bust my ass to get any time with any machine at all and there was nobody around with information or guidance or knowledge.

    The first thing I did wasn't play video games. I learned about BBSes. I learned telephony, phreaking, networking. I learned BBS software. I learned people. I built a BBS. I built a multi-node BBS. Then I moved on to writing engines for websites to do things I needed (like financial transactions, databases, etc).

    I started with computers around the age of twelve and didn't really get into video games a bit until my twenties and a lot until my thirties.

    Meanwhile, I have seen kids in the last fifteen years primarily use the computer for porn, video games, and social networking... and that's all they do. Not once do they give two shits worth of thought about how things work or why they work or to start taking things apart and looking under the hood. Kids are raised as consumers of content; not creators. In fact, they are punished for being creators. Inventors. Discoverers. Hackers.

    • Re:Not likely. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:41PM (#49753861)

      Good analysis. I think the main problem of today is that there is no need for being a "hacker" anymore.

      The ancients here will remember how it was vital for them to be "hardware hackers". Because a computer, that was something IBM built, that filled storage rooms and that NASA could afford. If you wanted one, you built your own. Out of necessity. It was either impossible to get one, or at the very least impossible to afford one.

      Fast forward to the 70s and 80s, when computers became more or less portable little things you would plug into a TV. We didn't have to solder our own boards together anymore, but programs was a different matter. We had to know quite a bit about programming, even if we weren't into it, for some of the more important tasks were only possible if you at least understood what's going on inside your machine. Not to mention that nearly all of them came with some kind of "user port", where the user could plug in ... hell, nearly anything.

      90s and 2000 brought the internet, along with having to learn a bit about TCP/IP if you wanted to actually get anywhere. Let's face it, Windows was not really too keen on letting you connect to the internet without jumping through more hoops than should be necessary, and trumpet was to us far more than just an instrument.

      What these eras have in common was that you had to learn something to get somewhere. In the stone age of computing, you actually had to learn how to build such a machine. And I'm not talking about "putting a CPU without accident into its socket". Later you had to understand the machine's language and had to be able to program, at least a bit, if you wanted to get anything. The early years of the internet meant for you to learn a thing or two about networking if you wanted to succeed.

      Today, we transcended it all. Nothing is necessary anymore. NO knowledge, no information, for everything there is a "wizard". Our kids aren't learning anything anymore, and I could hardly blame them. Would I have learned how to build a computer if I didn't have to? Unlikely.

      We're also at the point where anything big can only be done with a LOT of manpower behind it, and everything small can be bought for a few cents from China. There simply is no reason anymore for anyone to learn anything about the machines he uses. Unless, of course, he'd be interested in it.

      • I think the main problem of today is that there is no need for being a "hacker" anymore.

        Progress?

        We're also at the point where anything big can only be done with a LOT of manpower behind it

        I realize this most likely isn't your intent, it sounds curiously like statements made in the late 1800s when there was a sentiment that there wasn't much left for science to discover. This seems to fly in the face of productivity as well, the tools get better and more can be done with fewer.

        I suppose it comes down to what "big" is. Minecraft didn't have a lot of people behind it, and look at the impact it had. There are other examples. As technology progresses things become accessible that woul

        • I don't make my own clothes, don't slaughter my own beef and don't distill my own gas. And I probably would fail miserably at trying to do so. Then again, I also don't bemoan that people lose the skill to do so.

          The point was that it didn't matter in the "old days" whether you're curious enough so you'd want to do it. Back then, you simply HAD TO learn this to get things done. There was no way around it. If you wanted to program a game in the days of the C64, you HAD TO learn assembler since there was no oth

      • So really in the end, the same type of people are getting into programming/computers now as there were before. The people who see it more than just an tool, but as an instrument. Something that does more than just 'works', but can create something new and innovative.
    • When I started with computers, I had to bust my ass to get any time with any machine at all and there was nobody around with information or guidance or knowledge.

      The first thing I did wasn't play video games. I learned about BBSes. I learned telephony, phreaking, networking. I learned BBS software. I learned people. I built a BBS. I built a multi-node BBS. Then I moved on to writing engines for websites to do things I needed (like financial transactions, databases, etc).

      I started with computers around the age of twelve and didn't really get into video games a bit until my twenties and a lot until my thirties.

      Meanwhile, I have seen kids in the last fifteen years primarily use the computer for porn, video games, and social networking... and that's all they do. Not once do they give two shits worth of thought about how things work or why they work or to start taking things apart and looking under the hood. Kids are raised as consumers of content; not creators. In fact, they are punished for being creators. Inventors. Discoverers. Hackers.

      Most of today's games don't have the same design. They're not really presenting you with intellectual puzzles for the most part, so much as advancing to the next level. You aren't having to figure out how not to be eaten by a grue, and even mazes are rare in today's games--things that require real use of thought or memory or other mental ability rather than just reaching for the next reward.

  • Porn Viewing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @01:54PM (#49753425)

    ...gateway to an acting career?

  • Taught me that it's possible to write interesting non-trivial user interfaces on machines as primitive as Apple II

  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @01:58PM (#49753467) Homepage Journal

    So it was 1993. My friends and I all loved video games, consoles, etc. In '92 we had all gotten hooked on Wolfenstien, and most of us already had computers cobbled together from things begged, borrowed and stolen. We spent days tweaking our config.sys and autoexec.bats to get the most of what little ram we had. (himem.sys, load TSR high) Then Doom came out.

    We started doing dial up games almost immediately. Then one day one of our friends tells us about LANNING a game. We all bought into it, getting 3c509c's? Ahh those days, magelink for transferring maps, loading ipxodi, lots of fun. "WHO UNPLUGGED THE TERMINATOR?"

    From there a lot of us went to tech support for the then blossoming ISP industry, and from that we went on to desktop support, and bigger and greater things. I owe my career to video games.

    • I lived in a block of flats in the 90s and we had two computer programmers in our flat, and a couple of older guys with PC in a flat above and below ours...solution...run coax out the windows of ours and up / down to the other flats with a terminator at each end. We left it hooked up permanently to power our Warcraft I/II sessions and the occasional Doom / Quake / HL matches.

      But sure enough, every so often we'd be like "hey, where's the network" only to find a neighbour had closed with windows and uncapped

    • Your story and mine are similar, and I suspect Zuckerberg's is also close. I suspect Zuckerberg said was true - for the people now in their early to mid 30s but I think circumstances have changed in the last 20 years. All the digging through manuals and "ATDT" tweaks we had to make back then are all, standardized, GUI driven and automatic these days. Save for DayZ, it'd been years and years since I downloaded and installed a mod on a game. It isn't even possible to mod most games out there these days.

      You

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        It isn't even possible to mod most games out there these days.

        There are a couple reasons for that. One is that consoles' ease of use [pineight.com] outweighs desire to play mods for a lot of users. Another is that publishers may have realized that people squeezing the last bit of replay value out of a years-old game by playing mods is competing with sales of the same publisher's newer games.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Ditto. I even mentioned my DOOM 2 modification experience and online gaming in my old resumes.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    pwning n00bs != pwning teh codez matrix
  • Anyone who's been in a programming class in the last ten years knows it's absolutely swamped with kids going into "computer science" hoping to one day "program video games". And guess what? The video game development industry is so super-saturated with a glut of often-unqualified programmers, their wages, benefits and working conditions are usually worse than those for burger flippers.

    Don't worry, Zuck-man, we know you want cheap, desperate labor. But seriously, fuck you.

    • The video game development industry is so super-saturated with a glut of often-unqualified programmers, their wages, benefits and working conditions are usually worse than those for burger flippers.

      It's also filled with idiots like Curt Schilling who think it's perfectly okay to take money from the government while simultaneously lambasting those who take money from the government, who think it's okay to run a company completely out of money without giving any warning to shareholders, employees, etc.

    • When I worked in the video game industry in Silicon Valley, management always told us that we could get a job clearning toilets at Taco Bell if we didn't like our pay and work condiitions. One of the testers did that after discovering he could make more money, get better benefits and work a saner schedule at Taco Bell. Management stopped mentioning Taco Bell after that.
  • EMS/XMS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wikthemighty ( 524325 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:01PM (#49753493)

    All my early DOS knowledge came from learning how to configure my PC to play video games.

    Being able to fully explain how to do things like mem /a off the top of my head not only landed me my first good IT job, but got me hired at a higher position than I was interviewing for at the time...

  • I began playing video games of all types at a very young age which sparked my interest in computers. My interest in computers led me to take a CS class in HS where I had the realization that computers were more than just toys and tools for other (boring) work. I got my CS degree and now work as a software developer, and I still play a ton of video games as well.
  • I had an Amstrad CPC 6128, i could turn it on, type some BASIC code (from computer magazines) for some (basic!) games, then modifying it, then creating some original stuff... then end up doing JAVA/SQL, but that's not the point!
    • by Rufty ( 37223 )

      ... then end up doing JAVA/SQL, but that's not the point!

      Were the cookies any good?

    • Yes, when I was a kid we had a CPC 6128 as well. It came with a few games, and a big manual that explained everything about the machine. In that time, it wasn't easy to get new software or games. And as a kid I didn't have any money to buy them. So I followed the same path (except I luckily didn't end up doing JAVA/SQL).

      Immediate access to a programming environment + a real manual. That made it really easy to start programming. Unfortunately it's something you don't see much anymore.

      Best game I wrote on the

      • Best game I wrote on the CPC was a split-screen two-player math game, where you had to solve simple equations by entering the answer using the joysticks.

        Was it anything like Nintendo's Donkey Kong Jr. Math?

      • You expressed much better than me what i wanted to be the point of my comment: "immediate access to a programming environment + a real manual that explained everything about the machine. That made it really easy to start programming. Unfortunately it's something you don't see much anymore." - yes, that excellent Locomotive BASIC was my first intro to coding, and it was just fine.
  • Funny but true (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:03PM (#49753513)

    It's been a running gag for years that every single Computer Science major I knew going through college got into the field because they wanted to make games (though some deny it later on). Somewhere along the way, 98% of them realized that the games industry is a soul-sucking space with horrible deadlines, poor pay, and high rates of failure, so they decided to go for something else, but everyone I knew got into the field because they wanted to know how to make games.

    And the reason they wanted to know how to make games? Because they played games and thought they had something to contribute, or else wanted to play the game they had in their head that no one else had made yet, or else they wanted to experience the joy of having someone else play their game. But all of that starts with having played games first.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Well, we sure didn't get into it to write boring business applications except a few in the dotcom years who quickly moved on when it went bust. As I remember it though, there were many who just wanted to play games and only a few who wanted work with code and I don't think pushing them to play more would have brought them over. Of course you needed the opportunity, but there are a lot of games that are mod-friendly if you're so inclined. I'd sure encourage and test if tweaking a game peeks their interest, b

  • by tommeke100 ( 755660 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:07PM (#49753539)
    Breathing also a gateway to a programming career! Yes I also started fiddling with computers and playing video games at an early age, but so did all the other boys my age. We all had C64s, Amigas and later on PCs. But most didn't end up in IT, let alone software development or programming.
    I'm sure today you'll have a harder time finding a 12 yr old kid without a game console, tablet or computer than with.
  • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:08PM (#49753555) Homepage

    Mark Zuckerberg knows more than me, but personally "young nerdy kid who loves playing video games and thinks it's a first step towards programming" is one of those types I just can't stand. Playing video games doesn't help any more than using instagram or dicking around on your cell phone.

  • My first programs were on a TI-59 programmable calculator. There's a limited amount you can do with a 7-segment (with decimal point) 10 digit display.

    But the FIRST program I still recall fondly creating from that time was on that device - it used up all available memory for a 2-player (with a simple AI able to play either player) space-battle game with a refueling base. It was also the BEST and LAST game I ever wrote. (As you might imagine, I'm not a gamer nor do I write games.)

    Games seem to be a gatewa

  • Playing games preps you for a career in programming as much as driving a car preps you for being a mechanic.

    • if you are too broke to buy a new car and too broke to pay a professional mechanic then you will most certainly learn a lot about auto repair because you don't really have any other choice.

      • A lot of cars today are not user servicable beyond routine maintanence. My father once spent $800 on replacement parts trying to fix his car, gave up and took it to a shop. The mechanic scanned the computer, checked the error code, and replaced a electronic module for $30 in 15 minutes. The problem was digitial, not mechanical.
  • When I was young getting a video game literally involved programming it. That pretty much was as much of a trial by fire as possible. Then after that getting commercial games generally involved piracy that was really really hard and later it involved hardware tweaking and noodling with that stupid config.sys crap to get the machine just so.

    So popping a disk into an XBox or downloading content just isn't the same. Although I would be willing to bet that through xbox mods, xbox fixing, and cellphone repairs
    • Yes, you had to have a sense that what you were playing was something that you could actually make yourself, given the time and effort. That has absolutely been the case for me with the ZX Spectrum in the 80's -- I played game then made them and knew all about Z80 and Spectrum's hardware. Playing a multimillion dollar game is the same as watching a Hollywood blockbuster and thinking I can make movies too -- doesn't happen.

      That said, what Zuckerberg is saying may be right if kids are encouraged to play *indi

      • That said, what Zuckerberg is saying may be right if kids are encouraged to play *indie* games?

        And not just that but specifically indie PC games. Major video game consoles tend not to come with interfaces through which an end user can load homemade programs. (The reasons for this date back to a 1983-1984 recession in the North American video game market.) Debug consoles do, but console makers sell those only to financially stable companies that either A. have already published a few PC or Android games or B. are staffed by veterans of the traditional video game industry.

        • Yes, absolutely, forgot to clarify (I only know PC games) -- play games on platforms on which you can write hello world, and with tools you can get for free at that.

  • Probably a good time to remind everyone that correlation does not imply causation. Although I may make an exception in this case since it finally justifies all those video games I played as a child. Take that, Mom!
  • Video games got me into computers because I decided I wanted to program a version of "Space Invaders" for the TRS-80 Model I, Level I.

    I wrote an intro screen in BASIC, but it was too slow.

    So I taught myself machine code and POKE'd it into memory, and got the intro screen working.

    I never did finish writing the game, but I learned a lot about the basics of programming and how computers worked.

    From that 14-year-old project, I was hooked; taking Computer Science in University became an obvious choice.

    • by msobkow ( 48369 )

      14-year-old as in "I was 14 when I did it."

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      I grew up very close to an amusement arcade and my mind was blown when a Space Invaders showed up one day in 1979. I couldn't afford to play it as often as I wanted (i.e. 24x7) and there was always a queue to play it, so a version of Space Invaders was also my first attempt at an even slightly complex program from scratch too.
      I didn't have anything as stylish/expensive as a TRS-80, mine was a Compukit UK101:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org].
      I even had the same performance issues as you, so had to directly p

      • by msobkow ( 48369 )

        Own a TRS-80?

        Oh, hell no! I just hung around the local Radio Shack for hours on end...

        • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

          Sweet. Now you come to mention it I do remember reading in the US computer magazines that we used to get in the UK that there was an amazing culture of user groups springing up all over the US and Radio Shack and some other stores used to run free after-hours sessions on their computers. I was very jealous of such stuff, since most UK stores were far more about keeping the kids off the computers than welcoming them in, and there wasn't even one computer user group at least in my town.

    • Add me to the list of kids who did this with the same result (OSI C1P - 6502 based CPU). I wrote quite a few games for myself back then...wish I still had the cassettes they were saved to. I wrote

      * a "snake" game with two player mode
      * a couple with two players using half the keyboard each to chase each other around
      * one to drop torpedoes from a ship onto a sub controlled by the other player
      * a 3D maze from first person perspective using only ASCII graphics
      * space invader clone (assembler and never finished)

  • I think my first programming attempt was recreating pong on a timex zx80 that I had checked out from the library.

  • by SirMasterboy ( 872152 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:16PM (#49753627) Homepage

    I'm only 27 but I started playing computer games when I was really, really little and the games came on 5.25" floppy disks. I never had a console, only computers.

    I never wanted to actually be a video game programmer, but computer games are what made me so interested in computers in general. I definitely did my fair share of video game hacking and modification and reverse engineering as well as making helper tools and scripts for myself and my friends.

    I went into a Software Engineering program in college because of this interest and have been a software developer for 5 years now and it's been great.

  • I mostly got started in programming from using LOGO on the old Apple IIg computers starting in 3rd grade. I played video games a little but I'm pretty sure that is correlation, not causality. I also learned a lot by using an HP-48 in my math classes instead of the "required" TI-82 starting in high school... math teachers all insisted that this was a bad idea because I would need to create my own programs instead of using the ones provided with the teaching materials... but I think I actually learned a lot
    • by Imagix ( 695350 )
      "Apple IIg" ? Did the "s" fall off? :) Only nitpicking because the first computer _I_ owned (as opposed to the family) was an Apple IIGS.
    • I hated learning LOGO on the Apple II in the seventh grade (circa 1983). That's when I found out I came from a "poor" family because we couldn't afford to get an Apple II (~$2,500). My parents got me a Commodore VIC-20 (~$250). The logo instructor called it toy and the entire class laughed. I hated Apple for the next 25 years.

      • At least your VIC-20 had a sound chip.

        Wasn't there a LOGO port for the Vic-20, or was that for the C64?

  • Programming in pseudo-C for a MUD did it for me, although I had been playing with computers for years starting with Apple II and C64 BASIC for awhile.

  • I had an Atari 2600 with 30 cartridges as a preteen and did BASIC programming on the Commodore 64. Many years later, I got a testing job at a video game company called Accolade, which got bought out by Infrogrames, which bought Hasbro Interactive, which owned the IP rights for Atari. After the company relocated from San Jose to Sunnyvale and renamed itself Atari, I was a tester for three years and became a lead tester responsible for 10 titles for the next three years.

    I also went back to school to earn my IT certifications and learn computer programming because testing video games was a dead end job financially. Made the president's honor list for graduating with a 4.0 GPA in my major while two taking two classes per semester, working 80 hours per week and occasionally teaching Sunday school. Somehow I spent the next 10 years in help desk support without doing any professional programming, making more money than I did as a tester while only working 40 hours per week.

    I'm doing computer security and learning Powershell scripting in my current job. I use Python and the LAMP stack for websites at home. I'm more of a script monkey than a programmer these days. Maybe that will change as I get my security certifications and do more programming on the job.

    • I'm more of a script monkey than a programmer these days.

      Nothing wrong with that. For most people "scripting" is more useful day-to-day than "programming".

      Yes, I know they're technically the same but "real programmers" would laugh at me if I called what few scripts I rarely do "programming"

  • Definitely my playing of interactive fiction led to my creation of interactive fiction which in turn led to my career as a software developer.
  • Behind the times (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Harvey Manfrenjenson ( 1610637 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:45PM (#49753913)

    People over 45 (like myself) tend to think that learning to operate a computer is an educational experience. It isn't. It was at least mildly educational when we were kids... because the first thing you saw when you hit the "on" switch was a shell for a BASIC interpreter, or something similar. Now the first thing you see are *pictures*, which you point at, like a three-year-old at a candy store.

    Even as late as the mid-90s, you would hear a lot of talk about "computer literacy"-- the idea that operating a computer was a core skill, like reading and writing. You don't hear that phrase much any more, "computer literacy". You might as well speak of "microwave literacy" or "Netflix literacy". Yes, there is technically some "learning" involved when you fire up a microwave or Netflix-- you do need to learn which buttons to push-- but it's a tiny area of knowledge which doesn't lead to anything else. And the same is true, I think, of video games.

    At the moment, I work with a lot of inner-city teenagers (most of them from seriously dysfunctional homes and communities, most of them "educated" by Chicago Public Schools). ALL of them have computers, tablets, phones. ALL of them can operate their devices like a champion (and most of them love video games). Not one of them, so far, has become a computer programmer.

  • I typed out something longer and accidentally navigated away. I've had an interest in programming for a healthy portion of my life. Client side automation is/was fascinating. Writing "hacks" arguably got me into programming. The demo scene is full of brilliant people, seeing what those guys do is so cool, it had a profound influence on me. Writing mods for video games held my interest for a time, most of all I really like(d) seeing how things work. I recall the glee the first time I read some comments where
  • by PotatoHead ( 12771 ) <{doug} {at} {opengeek.org}> on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:52PM (#49753963) Homepage Journal

    My early experiences were the old Atari VCS (2600) and VCS stood for video computer system. I was fascinated by the pixels and the idea of a TV being interactive.

    I wanted control of the pixels.

    Later, in school, I got to work on Apple ][ computers, and those just begged to be programmed. Gaming can initiate the desire, but so can a lot of other computer driven things these days.

    It is not prep directly.

    Indirectly, games can be prep. For a few friends and I, cracking copy protection got us into 6502 machine and later on, Assembly language. We would use the monitor to see what was going on. Reading the ROM listing told us a lot more.

    BASIC is slow, and that too drove learning more. To get the real magic out of the old machines, one has to know stuff. We made games, played them and learned. Utility type programming was good too. One such program generated book reports with just a few picks and keyboard input.

    Just playing, unless the game incorporates programming concepts, is not meaningful. The ability of games and other interactive things can spark the desire to build and control.

    The latter leads to activities that do serve as prep.

  • by discord5 ( 798235 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:08PM (#49754111)

    Those of you who have done programming work in your career: did video games influence your path?

    Not really. My dad was the one who set me on this career track the day he came home with a Amstrad CPC 646 [wikipedia.org] when I was 6. It came with one game on casette (my dad bought that extra), a book on BASIC in English (which was not my native language), and an insatiable curiousity (although that might have been there at the time). I was lost in the book at the point where it explained how to draw a circle on the screen, but I pounded in the code and started playing with the variables in and before those weird sin() and cos() functions.

    And yes, I played videogames. I saved up months worth of allowance (money to buy candy, hey, I was 6) for that dinky little joystick, but I spent more time playing around with it than actually playing videogames on it.

    When I was 12 I saved up for a "real" computer. An 8086 with 640KB of memory, and after I got used to working with DOS, floppies and a hard drive with a giant 20MB of space, I bought books on programming for the PC. Yes, I also played videogames, but it was the programming that fascinated me. Making that computer do things for me, albeit very useless but that wasn't the issue, it was doing things I had told it to do. I learned how the machine worked, what memory addresses were special, what interrupts were, ... It was a fantastic journey.

    By the time I was 17 a friend of mine introduced me to Linux, and it didn't take long for me to make the switch. A program crashing wouldn't take down the whole operating system anymore, and best of all, it was free (gratis), came with a compiler (again free), and it came with everything you ever wanted in documentation, and if that failed, there was the source code. I played games... I had to dual boot for it, but I played games and even organized a small LAN party with friends in the basement and learned the basics of networking as I went along. When the internet became a thing in my country I could e-mail people around half the globe about a bug in a program, send a patch file, download the source code to something I wanted to try, and learned something new every day.

    I'm sad for a lot of the programmers graduating today. The fact that the phone in my pocket has thousands of times the resources of that old 8086 of mine means that inefficient code comes at a smaller cost for small programs. And sure, it doesn't matter in small programs, but when they start writing real code it shows and often in painful ways. Instead of learning how to program, they've learned how to play games. Aside from the graphics card, there's no real need for adding something to a desktop machine anymore, and even if it were it's all pretty much (actually working) plug and play these days. There's no incentive for people who play games anymore to tinker with a machine and learn how it works.

    As time has progressed I've seen less and less interns passionate about computing, and more and more people who say "I went in IT because I'm good with the Internet, like chatting and playing games.". Oh, there's a big buzz around the usual hot topics, like "social", "big data", "cloud", "internet of things" and whatnot, and I'm not claiming that's a bad thing, after all times have changed and everyone adapts new models and technology, but still... There's few who are interested in the machine, and how to really make it do things. When a kid tells you a database with 2GB of data in it is "big data" and we should be putting that shit in "the cloud" I start wondering about the future. There are exceptions, but far and few in between.

    And yes, as the gray hairs on my head have started to become quite numerous, I still play videogames. But I still spend most of my time with the machine doing other fun things.

  • by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:18PM (#49754179)

    Games could be prep for programming, but not for most of the very few who realize "Games are programs... I could write them, too".

    Most of them will still lack logic, critical thinking, and math skills necessary for even most basic programming, let alone the often complex tasks required in modern games. Let's face it, we're not talking about simple games, we're talking about FPS games. Say "rendering engine", "frame buffer", "shader", or "vector" to them, and their eyes glaze over in sudden confusion and disinterest. The games they'd want to make don't give an accurate impression of what it takes to produce them, and the video card specs they obsess over are just numbers to them. Aside from that, there are many distinct roles involved with producing a game, which they could realize if they ever bothered to look at the game's credits.

    Sure, there are "game programming" degrees available, but to me they sound pretty crap, with more focus on visuals than code. I know someone who got that degree from DeVry, and they didn't cover threading or networking. He came out as more of a digital artist than a programmer.

  • I'm not quite sure if it's related, but I've played a lot of video games when I was a kid. And now I'm always getting in trouble with my bosses for some reason...

    P.S.: My favorite video games were the Mega Man games.

  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:37PM (#49754331) Journal

    Wanting to crack copy protection and write trainers is what led to me learn x86 assesmbly, specifically 80386 assembly.

    That understanding of assembly gave me a solid foundation for the rest of my career. Once you understand interupts and memory registers, you can grasp the basics of everything from applications, to networking to storage systems. Fundamentally they are all doing the same thing.... reading something from one memory register, modifying it with the contents of another memory register, and pushing the results to somewhere else.

  • I have been addicted to Video Games since 1980 with PacMan. In 1987 I played a majority of the quality games out. I said,"Hey, I'm bored, and I want to make games since they don't have action RPG, and no big online RPGs." So I was right with the future of gaming, started coding a MMORPG somewhere around 1992, and got a lot done, but I couldn't figure out the networking. Video games most definitely got me interested in coding.
    • Same here. However, most coders I know aren't all that into video games. So it's really not clear to me that this is a significant factor. A huge number of people that are or were into video games never became coders.

      Video games were a huge motivator for me learning programming when I was younger, but I don't think many people take that lesson away from playing games.

  • This mentality MIGHT have been true many years ago where computers were exotic enough that you needed some level of expertise to even operate the computers enough to the point where you could RUN the games - but preparing us to code? No. Are we to conclude that playing Candy Crush Saga 8 hours a day is actually beneficial because this is preparing us for a career as a developer?
  • Business - and personal interest. Games don't do what I want, which is support other things I do in life. Business programming does by giving me money and personal programming by eliminating repetitive but complex stuff.

    Keep in mind this is about getting into programming. So, 70's.

  • In 1981 I played the pacman clone 'Munchkin' on a friend's Philips Videopac game computer.
    I was hooked, and asked my father for a 'game computer.'

    He refused and said "We'll get a real computer instead."
    I asked him "What is a real computer?"
    And he responded: "With a real computer you can make your OWN games."

    We got a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and today I have my own indie game company and had a hit-game on the Appstore, reaching #1 iPad app in many countries.
    Games got me into programming.

  • I definitely would not have gotten into programming if I hadn't played games as a kid.

    It is impossible to state that as fact. It is quite possible another cause may have set him on the same path. One can state the positive, "Gaming as a kid caused me to be interested in programming", but the negative is probably not accurate. If he didn't game maybe he would have been more interested in math which may have been the cause of his interest in programming.

  • However, the focus at improving a task repetitively helped me enormously, and I have video games to thank for that.
  • by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @05:27PM (#49755057) Homepage

    When I was a kid playing games on a PC was hard. You had to learn DOS, keep enough memory free, install sound card drivers after properly setting the DIP switches and avoiding COM port conflicts that made your mouse play music when you used it. Sometimes you had to tweak BAT files to get a game to install, others required manually using pkzip.

    Then you learned how to make boot disks with a bare minimum system or crafted your own multiboot setup. JUST TO PLAY. We were motivated, we had to be. Now kids just tap an icon and punch in their password, done. There's no learning required. Sure they're comfortable with web pages but they don't just pick up HTML and JavaScript unless already inclined. Games no longer LEAD to understanding nor require it, they're simply diversions. As soon as they get bored it's back on Pinterest or Netflix.

    I'm glad I got into computers when I did because at that time playing games truly lead to learning.

  • My take is that those that are truly successful in CompSci have both a love of the utility that computers have AND the escapism that they enable through games and play generally.

    Back when I was 8 or so, I had my first exposure to video games at the hotel we happened to be staying at in Anaheim outside of Disneyland. Asteroids, mostly. I was hooked. Within the next 2 years, I'd found a way to buy my first computer (a used Tandy Model 1 with tape drive--yep, like I said, I'm old). I whiled away my afterno

  • When I started getting bored of the popular gaming consoles of the time (Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc), I started playing the shareware games that my dad had downloaded from the BBS's on his computer. These were simple games, games like the original Duke Nukem (the platformer), Crystal Caves, Cosmos's Cosmic Adventure, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry (when my dad wasn't home ;) ), the Commander Keen series, and eventually Wolfenstein. Then came Doom.

    Doom was a game changer for me. Aside f

  • by Dasher42 ( 514179 ) on Saturday May 23, 2015 @01:08AM (#49757041)

    And I have never felt content to just play a game. Games always fall short in some way. I found it rewarding to try and splice out code for unnecessary features when they wouldn't run in 128K on our home PC in the 80's, I thought I'd struck gold when I found out Chuck Yeager's AFT stored its planes in flat text and simple experimentation could reveal what the numbers were, and before I was coding Nethack and MUDs, I was hex-editing X-Wing. That was way more interesting than any game alone, though the adults in my life thought I was "just playing games".

    Yeah, well, I didn't listen to them, and that's why I'm not mowing lawns to get by.

  • I'd say: yes, if you look under the hood. How many of us started with editing save files using hex editor?

    Modding, creating bots and cheating (all three often overlap) are a great first step. You learn how games are structured, you learn some scripting (Lua, Python, etc. depending on games), even some AI programming for bots.

  • I played my first computer game in 1963: Spacewar on a DEC PDP-1. I immediately started to learn how to write code, and have been doing it ever since. My son enjoyed video games when he was young. The desire to write video games motivated him to get a Computer Science degree, and he is now working in the industry.

  • These days to do anything interesting with graphics or games you start with a fairly sophisticated graphic library or game engine. To learn programming you need to learn languages, data structures and algorithms. You don't get very far starting from scratch, although I think it is absolutely essentially to be proficient in the basics. A serious game developer needs to know a decent amount of humanities and the arts. You need to tell a 'story' an art millennia old. You need to learn literature, history and
  • The path Zuckerberg took is much harder today because of people like Zuckerberg. The most common programmer path today consists of being a barely adequate developer from a 3rd world country who is willing to come here and work 70 hrs per week for less money than American developers. You don't have to be all that great of a developer and you certainly didn't have to play video games.

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